While burgers and hot dogs are often the first foods that come to mind when you picture a backyard BBQ, we have big news for fish lovers: cod loins are a grill’s best friend. The flakey, delicious, delicate and nutrient-dense seafood that tantalizes our taste buds isn’t just for baking or pan searing; it’s equally (and some would argue very fundamentally) delicious when it’s grilled to perfection.
So, what’s the key to properly grilling cod and nailing it? A few key tricks, a couple of foolproof recipes and essential tools are really all you need.
Because cod is so delicate, it requires a little extra attention and prep when cooking on a grill. But that doesn’t mean it’s hard to do. In fact, even a beginner chef and those of us who are grill-challenged can walk away with a pseudo-masterpiece..
The Right Techniques for Grilling Cod
Heat Your Grill in Advance
Just as you would preheat your oven to get the temperature just right, you also need to preheat your grill before your fish fillets come into contact with that heat. This is for a few reasons, but most importantly, it will help prevent sticking, which is the main concern when it comes to grilling fish.
Make Sure Not to Heat the Grill Too High
A medium-to-high heat often works, ranging from 400-450 °F . But if the grill gets too hot, your fish may cook too quickly or unevenly, and no one wants burnt cod. Generally speaking with fish, undercooked is better than overcooked, and cooked through (but still moist) with slight charring is the sweet spot.
Clean You Grates Well Once the Grill is Preheated
Once the grill is preheated, it’s time to clean the grates. Contrary to popular belief, you should clean the grates when they’re hot, not after they’ve cooled. Use a stainless-steel brush to remove all debris and bits of food from your last grilling adventure to ensure your cod doesn’t stick to the grill’s surface.
Properly Prep Your Cod
You need to extract as much moisture/water from the fillets as possible using paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. By eliminating excess moisture, you’ll ensure a more even cook on the grill. Next, you can let your cod sit in any marinade or seasoning of your choice. And to ensure those flavors are really absorbed into the fish and enhanced during the grilling process, let your cod marinade for at least 30 minutes.
Don’t Overcook Your Cod
Make a mental note of how long to cook your fish before you even begin. A portion of cod loin should take about 5-10 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on it since every portion is slightly different. The steam generated inside the foil speeds up the cooking time, and you’re looking for the fish to flake easily with a fork once it’s ready.
Aluminum Foil is the Easiest Way to Protect Your Cod on the Grill
There are a few ways to use foil when grilling your fish, but arguably the best technique from a flavor (and a cleanup) perspective is to create a pouch by folding the foil around the cod loin and securing the edges so you have an enclosed cooking surface. This foil packet acts like a little flavor bomb, with all the marinade, seasoning and fresh flavors locked up so your fish can really absorb the goodness.
In addition to enhancing and really marrying your fish with the flavor of the marinade, using an aluminum foil packet will also help maintain the consistency and texture of the fish. No using tongs to flip your fish or scrape it off the grill grates, which can lead to premature flaking or (*gasp*) even dropping a piece of freshly grilled fish into the flames.
If You’re Feeling Fancy, Banana Leaves Offer the Same Type of Protection
And they also happen to look professional, so you end up with a perfectly cooked, restaurant-worthy presentation. Either way, the foil or banana leaves can help maintain the integrity of your fish fillet and help concentrate the flavors during the cooking process.
Here are Some Grilled Cod Recipes We Love:
This recipe for Cod Baked in Banana Leaves calls for oven-baked fish, but you can follow the same preparations and then simply exchange the word “oven” with “grill.” The intense flavors from the chili peppers, fresh coconut and ginger are perfect for a summer BBQ.
Another option is to turn your grilled cod into a fan favorite that delivers all year long – fish tacos. These Grilled Cod Tacos are super easy to make, and the fish marinade is everything you want in a fish taco dish: a little lime juice, jalapeño, a lot of toasted cumin seeds and cilantro.
And few things are better than marinade made from lemon pepper, butter and soy sauce. This Grilled Lemon Pepper Cod is a perfect blend of indulgent flavors and fresh flakey fish, all made possible by the little aluminum foil grill ‘pan’ you create to help cook your fish.